This week is a big one in the Colwell/Coehoorn world. Maggie’s first birthday is on Sunday, April 29. And today, it really sunk in. We’ve been through a lot.
When I got home from work there was a stack of cards on the counter top in the kitchen. One of them included the line, “You and Stephen have been through more emotionally than almost anyone can understand.” This person could not have been more right. We’ve been through a ton emotionally. This is the most obvious challenge we’ve faced, so it’s the first thing most people think about. But there have been even bigger struggles that most don’t know or ask about. What about our spiritual welfare? How about our marriage?
I’m happy to announce that our marriage is strong, and I feel like I have better spiritual clarity than ever before. But Joy brought up an interesting point a few nights ago when we realized that no one has asked about our spiritual wellbeing or our marriage over the last year. Why aren’t people worried about that? That was an eye opener.
I’ve had a lot of quality discussions with friends and spiritual advisors lately about the spiritual journey I’m on and the questions I’m asking. The discussions inevitably turn to my desire for deeper relationship. A friend mentioned recently that not everyone has the same desire for deep relationship, and that not everyone is looking for the same depth in a church that I am. So I want to unpack that a little bit and tell where I’m coming from.
I believe God demands depth from our relationships. The simple fact that this is something that is “offered” in small groups and programs instead of being the standard really troubles me. True community has become an option instead of the norm, and we should be ashamed of this.
(Before I go any further I have to acknowledge that there are people and groups that are doing Godly community well. I admire them and what they have. I just haven’t seen it made a priority in the churches I’ve been part of.)
I’m not asking people to do something to benefit me. I’m simply looking at the model God laid out for us in scripture and asking where we went wrong. I understand selling all we have and living together the way the first century church in Acts 2 and 4 did isn’t a practical model in today’s society, but who ever said Christianity was supposed to follow rules of practicality? What if we gave up of our time to build true, deep, selfless relationships so we could give ourselves to each other in every way possible? What if we were able to pour ourselves into each other’s lives recklessly? Wouldn’t this take a step towards being more of what we are called to be?
A friend recently hit the nail on the head when he said, “You want people in your life who will pour themselves into your hurt.” This is exactly what I desire. And I believe it’s what God calls us to be for each other.
The further the calendar takes me away from Maggie’s death the more clearly I see what has been missing. I don’t believe our web of friends and acquaintances ever tried to neglect us, but even without that effort it happened. I believe this is due to the lack of depth I’ve been writing about. If we truly love each other and know the hurts of our brothers and sisters intimately we can’t help but put ourselves in a place to be emotionally, spiritually and physically helpful. When our relationships only go as deep as the surface level, so does our support to each other.
The piece of this that scares me even more is this: if we are unable to be a solid support in physical and emotional needs, are we supporting each other spiritually? Do we hurt enough for our brother and sisters to go through discomfort ourselves to help them?
It’s no mistake that the church is referred to as a family - that we call each other brother and sister. Who is most willing to support you and take care of you in times of need? It should be your family. We should know our family intimately. We should love each other despite faults and struggles and sacrifice our own comforts to hold them up in times of struggle.
American Christianity has let too many things get in the way. Surface level relationships, the attempt to squeeze all of what a church should be into Sunday morning and the desire for huge church bodies are just a few of the obstacles that we’ve welcomed into our fellowships that keep deep relationship from happening. So what do we do?
Joy and I had dinner with friends a few nights ago, and we talked about all of these things. We all acknowledged that these obstacles are alive and well in our own church. I ended the night with this question, and I’ll pose it to you now.
“If we know all of these things are happening and we can pinpoint what they are, why do we allow it to continue? Why do we stand by and let it happen?”